Virginia copperleaf is a tall, branched summer annual that can grow three feet tall. It takes its name from the copper colored leaves of its late summer color. This weed is a North American native that is found from Maine to Georgia and as far west as Texas and north to South Dakota. It is a member of the spurge family and is poisonous, but it does not have the milky sap that is typical of other family members. The simple leaves are oppositely arranged on the stems when the plant is a young seedling, but they change to an alternate arrangement as the weed matures.
Another name for Virginia copperleaf is Virginia three-seed mercury. The weed has both male and female flowers that are produced separately on each plant. Its flowers are wind pollinated, and each seedpod holds three egg-shaped seeds.
Virginia copperleaf grows in sunny to part shade locations. It is often found in flowerbeds and naturalized areas. The weed has a taproot, but it is easily pulled up for control. A three-inch layer of mulch will help to control Virginia copperleaf and other weeds in flowerbeds. For information on mulch, see factsheet HGIC 1604, Mulch.